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by Thomas Ken (lyrics) and Louis Bourgeois (music)

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.


What is a doxology?

doxology (Ancient Greek: δοξολογία doxologia, from δόξα, doxa ‘glory’ and -λογία, –logia ‘saying’)[1][2][3] is a short hymn of praises to God in various forms of Christian worship, often added to the end of canticlespsalms, and hymns. The tradition derives from a similar practice in the Jewish synagogue,[4] where some version of the Kaddish serves to terminate each section of the service.

If you have ever attended a Christian Church in the English speaking world, it is likely that you have heard this song and probably know the words. Thus, statistically, this song is one of the most popular songs in the world. However, if you are like me, then you never bothered to learn much about it or its history. It is strange – in perspective – to think that one of the most famous songs of the last three hundred years would have as its creator someone who has passed from some measure of fame into almost total obscurity even though his work has not done so. Will some modern music live on after us even though the musician is forgotten? (I think a good candidate for this is “Sweet Caroline” as I anticipate that it will be sung at sporting events centuries from now, long after the rest of Neil Diamond’s catalog and the man himself are all but forgotten.)

I am of course kidding. The human race will never forget this legend or his catalog.

The notion of Church history sliding into obscurity bothers me, as a student of history more generally, inasmuch as I do not think it is possible to understand any people without also understanding what they believe(d) and why they believe(d) it. In the absence of that understanding, it is too tempting for a modern interpreter to fill that void with foreign motivations and beliefs which will inevitably then lead to a wrong understanding of our forebears. If you only study the politics and wars of a people, and not its entertainment or its religious leaders and beliefs, you miss a lot. </soapbox> Back on topic…

Thomas Ken (July 1637 – 19 March 1711) was an English cleric who was considered the most eminent of the English non-juring bishops, and one of the fathers of modern English hymnody. From Wiki:

Although Ken wrote much poetry, besides his hymns, he cannot be called a great poet; but he had that fine combination of spiritual insight and feeling with poetic taste which marks all great hymn-writers. As a hymn-writer he has had few equals in England; he wrote Praise God from whom all blessings flow.[7][8] It can scarcely be said that even John Keble, though possessed of much rarer poetic gifts, surpassed him in his own sphere. In his own day he took high rank as a pulpit orator, and even royalty had to beg for a seat amongst his audiences; but his sermons are now forgotten. He lives in history, apart from his three hymns, mainly as a man of unstained purity and invincible fidelity to conscience, weak only in a certain narrowness of view. As an ecclesiastic he was a High Churchman of the old school.

Crypt of Thomas Ken at the Church of St John the Baptist, Frome

Ken’s poetical works were published in collected form in four volumes by W. Hawkins, his relative and executor, in 1721; his prose works were issued in 1838 in one volume, under the editorship of J. T. Round. A brief memoir was prefixed by Hawkins to a selection from Ken’s works which he published in 1713; and a life, in two volumes, by the Rev. W. L. Bowles, appeared in 1830. But the standard biographies of Ken are those of J. Lavicount Anderdon (The Life of Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, by a Layman, 1851; 2nd ed., 1854) and of Dean Plumptre (2 vols., 1888; revised, 1890). See also the Rev. W. Hunt’s article in the Dictionary of National Biography.

He was buried at the Church of St John the Baptist, Frome, where his crypt can still be seen. He is also commemorated with a statue in niche 177 on the West Front of Salisbury Cathedral.

Thomas Ken is remembered in the Church of England with a Lesser Festival on 8 June.[9][10] He is also commemorated on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on 21 March.[11][12]

The note above refers to “Doxology” by its first line – “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” Why is the work titled Doxology? We derive the title from how it is used. But that begs the question of whether this is the only “Doxology” in the Christian Church and the answer there is no. Again, from wiki:

These words were written in 1674 by Thomas Ken[7] as the final verse of two hymns, “Awake, my soul, and with the sun[8] and “Glory to thee, my God, this night,”[9] intended for morning and evening worship at Winchester College. This final verse, separated from its proper hymns and sung to the tune “Old 100th“, “Duke Street”, “Lasst uns erfreuen“, “The Eighth Tune” by Thomas Tallis, among others, frequently marks the dedication of alms or offerings at Sunday worship. The popular Hawaiian version Hoʻonani i ka Makua mau was translated by Hiram Bingham I and is published in hymnals.[10] Many Mennonite congregations sing a longer and more embellished setting of this text known as “Dedication Anthem” by Samuel Stanley.[11] In Mennonite circles, this doxology is commonly known as “606” for its hymn number in The Mennonite Hymnal [1969], and colloquially known as the “Mennonite National Anthem.” Students at Goshen College stand and sing the doxology when 6:06 remains in a soccer game – as long as Goshen is winning the game.[12]

Some Christian denominations have adopted altered versions of the Doxology in the interest of inclusive language or other considerations. Some Disciples of Christ congregations eliminate the masculine pronouns. Some denominations, such as the Anglican Church of Canada (Common Praise), the United Church of Canada (Voices United), and the United Church of Christ (New Century Hymnal), replace “heavenly host” with a reference to God’s love. The United Church of Christ version reads:Praise God from whom all blessings flow;Praise God, all creatures here below;Praise God for all that love has done;Creator, Christ, and Spirit, One.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) accepted this version of the Doxology in 2014 to accompany the Glory to God, the Presbyterian Hymnal. This version was written by the Rev. Neil Weatherhogg, pastor of both the First Presbyterian Church of Kerrville, Texas and the Harvey Browne Presbyterian Church in Louisville Kentucky. This version was published by Rev. Weatherhogg in 1990. This hymn maintains Gender neutrality as it does not refer to God in gender specific terminology. It goes:Praise God from whom all blessings flow;Praise God, all creatures here below;Praise God above ye heavenly host;Praise Triune God, whom we adore

Other versions of this doxology exist as well, with various lyrics, including in the United Methodist Hymnal (#621), “Be Present at Our Table, Lord,” which is often sung as grace before meals using the tune “Old 100th;” hymn by John Cennick; tune from the Genevan Psalter, 1551; attributed to Louis Bourgeois:Be present at our table, Lord;be here and everywhere adored;thy creatures bless, and grant that wemay feast in paradise with thee.

There are other Christian doxologies. In fact, depending upon your location, Church affiliation, or when your life occurred, you might be quite confused to see Thomas Ken’s song labeled as The “Doxology.”

Among Christian traditions a doxology is typically an expression of praise sung to the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is common in high hymns for the final stanza to take the form of a doxology. Doxologies occur in the Eucharistic prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours, hymns, and various Catholic devotions such as novenas and the Rosary.

Gloria in excelsis Deo

The Gloria in excelsis Deo, also called the Greater Doxology, is a hymn beginning with the words that the angels sang when the birth of Christ was announced to shepherds in Luke 2:14. Other verses were added very early, forming a doxology.

Gloria Patri

The Gloria Patri, so named for its Latin incipit, is commonly used as a doxology in many Christian traditions, including the Roman CatholicsOld Catholics, Independent Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Disciples of Christ, Reformed Baptists and United Protestants.[5] It is called the “Lesser Doxology”, thus distinguished from the “Great Doxology” (Gloria in Excelsis Deo), and is often called simply “the doxology”. As well as praising God, it was regarded as a short declaration of faith in the equality of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

The Greek text,Δόξα Πατρὶ καὶ Υἱῷ καὶ Ἁγίῳ Πνεύματικαὶ νῦν καὶ ἀεὶ καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. Ἀμήν.

is rendered into Latin as, Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

which is literally translated Glory [be] to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, and now, and always, and into the ages of ages. Amen.

In saecula saeculorum“, here rendered “ages of ages”, is the calque of what was probably a Semitic idiom, via Koine Greek, meaning “forever.” It is also rendered “world without end” in English, an expression also used in James I‘s Authorised Version of the Bible in Ephesians 3:21 and Isaiah 45:17. Similarly, “et semper” is often rendered “and ever shall be”, thus giving the more metrical English version,… As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

A common version of the Liturgy of the Hours, as approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, uses a newer, different translation for the Latin: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

The most commonly encountered Orthodox English version: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen

The modern Anglican version found in Common Worship is slightly different, and is rooted in the aforementioned translations found in the Authorised Version: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Personally, I am quite familiar with both the Thomas Ken version of Doxology and the Anglican version – which is also widely spread and performed in various Protestant churches. Below are a couple of versions:



4 thoughts on “Doxology

  1. Really interesting post, thank you. I studied music at university and so studied a great deal on religious music because without religious music we would never be where we are now with secular music and music in general. I’m also a church organist so have played many Doxology’s in my time. Thanks for a great read.